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Affordable Perfumes That Smell Really Expensive

Cult Beauty
Writer and expert1 year ago
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The people have spoken — and they want affordable perfumes that smell expensive. You only have to spend a few seconds on #perfumetok to discover hundreds of viral videos on the latest dupe for those iconic (but eye-wateringly pricey) scents, uncovered by keen-nosed {fragrance} fanatics in everything from {hand soap} to laundry detergent.

a woman wearing a yellow jumper and pearls holding a cra-yon perfume
What is it these fragrances get so right that has us hunting high and low for imitations? Often, one of two things: hyper-minimalism (think: single-note scents for that ‘rich and unbothered’ vibe) or extreme opulence (think: a heady trail of oud, musk, or amber). And — in both cases — an expert ‘nose’ to ensure every note is carefully balanced to work in perfect harmony with the wearer

Looking for perfume that smells expensive without copying the usual suspects? We have good news. Whether it’s {women’s fragrance}, {men’s fragrance} or {gender neutral fragrance}, there has never been a better time to shop for unique scents at prices that won’t raise your accountant’s eyebrows. Why? Achingly cool indie brands are joining forces with established industry icons to marry fresh ideas with serious fragrance prowess. Think: super sophisticated and modern blends, scent that lasts all day, and purse-friendly price tags. We can (almost) guarantee people will be stopping you in the street to tell you that you smell so good.

a dark skinned hand holding onto a green the nue co perfume spritzing it

Starting with the iconic anti-perfume beloved by beauty editors and celebrities alike, Escentric Molecules Molecule 01. Developed by celebrated ‘nose’ Geza Schoen, this daringly minimalist scent is based around a single note — Iso E Super — usually used to give fragrances a woodier base. Used alone, it melds with the body’s natural pheromones to create a warm, ‘come closer’ scent that’s totally unique to the wearer. A true {gender neutral fragrance}, endlessly alluring, and guaranteed to turn heads (and noses). And, in veritable less-is-more style, even their heftiest 100ml bottle comes in under £100. Not ready to commit? Invest for less with a 30ml travel size. 

If smelling expensive brings to mind sun-drenched destinations, then meet Sol de Janeiro Cheirosa ‘62 Eau de Parfum. Based on the transformative scent of Sol de Janeiro’s bestselling Bum Bum Cream {body moisturisers}, its gourmand notes of salted caramel, pistachio and vanilla are indulgent without feeling cloying. Soft florals and creamy sandalwood round out the profile for a scent that lasts beyond sunset. Apply whenever you want to feel a little Rio sunshine — without the cost of a flight

For perfumes that not only smell but look expensive, look no further than KAYALI. Arabic for ‘my imagination’, this {fragrance} collection from Huda Beauty celebrates the perfume heritage of the Middle East and draws inspiration from luxurious destinations visited by Huda and Mona Kattan. Cleverly formulated with layering in mind, these scents are just as irresistible worn alone. And with notes from sharp apple and decadent vanilla to sensual amber and musk, there’s something for every fragrance taste. Created with world-renowned French perfume house, Firmenich, they deliver seriously luxe scent for less. Treat yourself to a 50ml bottle and a matching {hand cream} for the full fragrance experience under £100

Want to smell expensive but keep people guessing? Head for still — just about — under-the-radar brand, CRA-YON. The brainchild of perfumery extraordinaire duo Niclas and Christine Lydeen, their off-beat fragrances are your go-to for no smelling like everyone else. Coupled with their stripped back, shelf-worthy (and sustainably-minded) packaging, CRA-YON’s thoroughly modern fragrances come with a surprisingly lightweight price tag. Our pick? The High Road. Exploring the earthy, calming scent of cannabis, it’s a guaranteed conversation starter. A captivating blend of grassy fig leaf, herbaceous sage, powdery violet, sweet coconut and sultry amber, this scent for all seasons has serious ‘forever fragrance’ appeal  — but trust us, you’ll want to explore the entire range.   

For fragrance that delivers even more bang for its buck, try The Nue Co. Coined as ‘sensory supplements’ their {gender neutral fragrances} not only boast scent profiles to rival the most established perfume houses, but also boast impressive {wellbeing} benefits. Created with world-renowned perfumer Guillame Flavigny, Forest Lungs mimics the molecular compounds produced by trees that are credited for the stress-relieving effects of forest bathing — and 96% of participants felt less stressed within 30 minutes of spritzing. Catching the irresistibly clean, outdoorsy scent of vetiver, woods, resin and citrus on your skin throughout the day feels pretty good, too. 

Cult Beauty
Writer and expert
View Cult Beauty's profile